During the first half of the 20th C the State of California established a position as the leader in public education. During the administration of Pat Brown, Jerry's father, it adopted and funded a master plan for higher education. This put together a multi-level system reaching to all corners of the state that assured an opportunity for post secondary education to anybody who wanted it at a cost that ordinary people could afford. The University of California was at the pinnacle of this system with multiple campus locations. It operates under the control of the Board of Regents, who in the interest of preserving academic freedom, were given considerable constitutional independence from political control. The Berkeley campus of UC was the original location and has risen in academic standing and reputation to be arguably the world's most prominent public university. Various departments have repeatedly been rated on a par with those in the elite institutions of Harvard and Stanford.
In 1966 Ronald Reagan used student demonstrations at Berkeley as a whipping post to ride into the governor's office. He then proceeded to declare war. He laid the foundation for an anti-tax crusade that eventually led to the infamous prop 13 which established a pattern that has made it impossible to conduct the public finances of the state in a coherent manner. Education at all levels has been the loser.
California managed to kick the post prop 13 can down the road by playing budget games with a rolling multi-billion deficit for a number of years. The crash of 2008 brought those chickens home to roost. The state budget has been making draconian cuts to the state funds appropriated for higher education. This leaves the state funded institutions with the choice of either reducing services and/or enrollment or raising tuition. They are continuing to impose large recurring tuition increases while squeezing faculty salaries.
The UC Board of Regents has generally responded to this situation as though they were the directors of a corporate business. That is where many of them come from. They seem to be taking the attitude that the State of California is simply one of their customers, and since it is a declining source of revenue they are looking to new markets. Never mind the fact that the institution that they have been appointed to administer is the property of the State and people of California. They have taken the position that students and faculty are not what is vital to the university's future. It is the administrators that are really important. They are of the view that they are in competition with Wall St. firms for managerial talent and must provide competitive salaries. These trends are the core of what the occupation at UC Berkeley is about.
Last week while campus police were beating students with clubs because they had dared to link arms Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau was away in China. Today we learn just what he was up to while all hell was breaking lose at home.
The University of California, Berkeley announced this week that it plans to open a large research and teaching facility here as part of a broader plan to bolster its presence in China.
The public university, which is struggling under budget constraints imposed by the state of California, said the Shanghai center would cater to engineering graduate students and be financed over the next five years largely by the Shanghai government and companies operating here. The program is expected to begin in July 2012.
Berkeley’s announcement comes as other prominent American universities are racing to build closer ties to China, hoping to attract new students, deepen research capabilities and set up sites to train business professionals to succeed in the booming Chinese market. New York University and Duke University are each building a campus in the Shanghai area, and Stanford is building a $5 million research center on the campus of the elite Peking University in the city of Beijing.
Bring in high paying foreign students and establishing satellite campuses is nothing new in the business of higher education. The difference is that schools like NYU and Duke are private institutions. UC Berkeley is not. The entire map of American education is mirroring the picture of economic inequality. Students take on greater and greater loads of debt that can't be discharged in bankruptcy in a scramble for jobs that may not be there. But what is really important is that we have no unsightly tents in public view on the corporate campus.